Interesting how some foods absolutely sing of the season. Certainly, corn and tomatoes are part of summer’s bounty. But so are steamers. Have to love a food that you dive into with your hands, dip first in broth and then in melted butter before maneuvering it to your mouth. Could be why this messy, hands-on food is most happily eaten outdoors on a balmy summer evening. Surrounding the feast with friends is mandatory. And fun.
Thinking about our most recent clambake. If you add potatoes, onions, kielbasa, and shrimp to the steaming kettle, you’ll have a complete meal that will satisfy everyone at the table. A bowl of cole slaw, a basket of bread, cold beer and wine, and dinner is served. Total bonus if you have a friend like Mary who contributes chocolate cheese cake for dessert!
Ingredients (for 8)
6 pounds of steamers
2 pounds of shrimp (approx. 20-24 shrimp/pound)
small whole red potatoes (2 per person)
small whole onions (2 per person)
kielbasa ( 2-3 pieces per person)
extra sliced onion, chopped garlic, red pepper flakes, and olive oil
1. If your fish market has a filtration system, rinsing should be enough. If your clams are sandy, soak them for an hour in a mixture of 3 cups of cold water and 1 tablespoon of non-iodized salt. Rinse well after you soak the clams. You’ll need more liquid for a lot of clams, but that’s the proportion of water to salt.
2. Saute a sliced onion and a chopped clove of garlic in a little olive oil in a deep pot. A big lobster pot is great for this. Season with salt, pepper and a few shakes of red pepper flakes.
3. Once the onion is soft, add about four inches of water to the pot. I sometimes add a couple of tablespoons of pesto for extra flavor. Or some thyme leaves. Add the potatoes and whole onions. Cook until the potatoes are close to done.
4. Add the kielbasa chunks; heat through.
5. Add the clams. Cover the pot and steam the clams until they open. It’s okay to open the pot and stir things around. Steaming should take about five minutes.
6. Add the shrimp a couple of minutes before the clams are completely opened. I use cleaned and deveined shrimp with just the tails on. They only take about two minutes to cook.
7. Serve with cups of broth and melted butter. I like to put the melted butter in a glass pitcher, so people can serve themselves. Makes it easy to re-heat the butter in the microwave part way through the meal if needed.
Note: If you decide to eliminate the shrimp to make it a classic clam boil, you should plan on 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of clams per person.